Mainstream journalists slammed CNN for its May 10 town hall with former President Donald Trump, who lied throughout the event without adequate fact-checking.
Just one day after he was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll (and subsequently attacked her on Truth Social), Trump spouted lie after lie at CNN’s live event. While host Kaitlan Collins struggled to fact-check him, the heavily Republican audience cheered on the former president, applauding after he joked about sexual assault, lied about the 2020 election, and called Collins “a nasty person.”
Notably, Carroll is reportedly considering suing Trump a third time for defamation “in the wake of his diatribe against her during a CNN town hall Wednesday night.”
Before the town hall, journalists and advocates criticized CNN for hosting the event, with some even calling for the network to cancel it, particularly in light of the verdict in Carroll’s lawsuit. And after Trump spent over an hour unrelentlessly lying, mainstream journalists (and even some CNN staff) lambasted the network both for hosting the event and for insufficiently pushing back on Trump’s misinformation. The backlash against CNN has been so severe that the network’s head of strategic communications Matt Dornic resorted to retweeting praise from sexist pundit Erick Erickson. Additionally, right-wing media are celebrating the town hall, with The Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro claiming “CNN did Trump a MASSIVE favor.”
From calling it “journalistic malpractice” to declaring “CNN’s humiliation” “complete,” here’s how CNN’s colleagues in mainstream media, and other media figures, have responded to the network’s town hall with Trump:
- MSNBC contributor Matthew Dowd tweeted: “CNN was completely unprepared to hold Trump accountable. CNN has done a complete disservice to our democracy. I withheld judgment on this until I saw it. CNN you failed journalism and our country."
- CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy wrote in his Reliable Sources newsletter: “It's hard to see how America was served by the spectacle of lies that aired on CNN Wednesday evening. … Trump lied about the 2020 election. He took no responsibility for the January 6 insurrection that those very lies incited. And he mocked E. Jean Carroll's allegations of sexual assault, which a jury found him liable for on Tuesday. And CNN aired it all. On and on it went. It felt like 2016 all over again. It was Trump's unhinged social media feed brought to life on stage."
- Civil rights leader Sherrilyn Ifill tweeted: “I hate that @CNN allowed E. Jean Carroll’s name to be dragged through the mud again by this terrible man. Sure she could sue him for defamation again. That doesn’t change the hurt & humiliation at the laughter, and at the knowledge that CNN was willing to expose her to this.”
- Authoritarianism expert and MSNBC columnist Ruth Ben-Ghiat tweeted: “CNN became a party to Trump's need to psychologically ‘undo’ his defeat by getting the audience to applaud him *for being an assaulter.* The more approval authoritarians get, the more they feel emboldened to be even more lawless. This is why this ‘town hall’ was so dangerous.”
- Media critic Jay Rosen railed against the decision to hold a town hall: “The failure was earlier. In the delusion that by bringing him into your space, you could force him into your world: where there are such things as facts … . It was a failure to accept how far gone this is.” Rosen also asked of CNN’s CEO, Chris Licht, referring to Licht’s reported desire to bring the network to a supposed ideological center: “Was that the center to which you wish CNN would return, Chris Licht?”
- MSNBC host Mehdi Hasan criticized the town hall throughout the evening in a series of tweets, tweeting: “Trump is mocking Carroll and the sexual abuse he was just found liable for, calling it 'hanky panky', and the audience is laughing. Disgusting stuff. Hope CNN bosses are proud.” He also criticized the network for putting Collins “in a room full of Trump fans and now they are consistently laughing at his jokes and clapping his attack lines - including on her. Madness.”
- Journalistic giant Dan Rather tweeted: “Does CNN count that as an in-kind campaign donation?”
- Broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien declared on Twitter that “CNN's humiliation is complete.”
- Political commentator Brian Tyler Cohen criticized CNN’s apparent attempt at a ratings grab: “I hope that when we look back at this moment, with American democracy still very much in peril, that CNN can be proud knowing that the way they met this moment was to voluntarily platform the guy whose last act in office was to try and steal the election-- all for a ratings grab.”
- Daily Beast and MSNBC columnist Wajahat Ali tweeted: “Trump calls Kaitlin Collins a ‘nasty person’ after she simply did a follow up. The audience laughed and clapped. Congrats, Chris Licht and CNN leadership. Bravo. What a way to treat your employees.”
- Washington Post opinion writer Jennifer Rubin tweeted about the town hall: “Learned nothing. Utterly insufficient to the moment.”
- Former Fox News host Gretchen Carlson said: “I can’t believe this is being allowed on @cnn. This is promulgating the cult leadership of Trump — and people are laughing at sexual assault. God save us. And now trump says it’s because women LET YOU grab ‘em by the pussy.”
- Historian and commentator Kevin Kruse tweeted: “America was not, in fact, well served by what CNN did last night.”
- Frequent MSNBC guest and voting rights attorney Marc Elias tweeted: “CNN didn't only give a platform to Trump to spread election lies, they adding an election denier to their panel after the town hall. What is the possible explanation for that?”
- On Morning Joe, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough said the town hall was “a night that was bad for democracy, a night that was bad for the media, a night that was bad for CNN.” He also labeled it an “absolute monstrosity of a town hall meeting.”
- Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah called the town hall “journalistic malpractice” on Twitter: “Indeed it is journalistic malpractice. But in so many industries, you can get sued or lose your license from some professional board if you are found guilty of malpractice. This is not the case in journalism. This industry is accountable to basically no one.”
- On his show, MSNBC host Lawrence O’Donnell noted, “Some of Donald Trump's lies were challenged on CNN tonight, but not nearly close to all,” and criticized the number of apparent Trump fans in the town hall audience.
- Longtime New York Times writer Frank Bruni lambasted the town hall, particularly “the audience it assembled,” in an op-ed titled “Trump’s ‘Stupid,’ ‘Stupid’ Town Hall.”
- Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple wrote a piece criticizing the substance of the town hall. Wemple noted that many criticized CNN before the event and he generally “deplores opinions about events that have yet to take place, yet CNN did little to prove the value of this venture.”
- CNBC media reporter Alex Sherman wrote an article arguing the CNN town hall showed that “the network still doesn’t know how to handle Donald Trump.”